by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
I used to have a model railway set when I was a kid. Well, maybe I should rephrase that, my dad had one. He bought it for my little brother and me but he did all the modeling in the interest of 'helping us'. Sure dad... We loved him despite that little flaw. The first ever PC game I played that involved trains was Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon. It wasn't the easiest of games to play but it definitely had its charm. Since then, a number of "Train Sims" have been released but precious few managed to hold my interest for very long. The only exception was the brilliant Transport Tycoon by Chris Sawyer that is still in my list of top games of all times.
Strangely enough, Sid Meier never returned to this obviously very successful game. The two 'sequels' to Railroad Tycoon were produced by a totally different company and had very little to do with the original which was a real shame. Fortunately for us, things are looking up for fans of the Train Sim genre. Currently slated for a September release, work is well under way for Sid Meier's Railroads!, the spiritual successor of Sid's 1990 masterpiece.
Obviously technology has made a huge leap forward in the past decade and a half and the first thing you will notice this in, are the graphics. Railroads! will make you feel almost as if you are playing in the world of the popular British children TV series Thomas the Tank Engine. Don't let its appearance deter you from reading on though; there is a wonderfully deep transport simulation underneath.
Much of the simulation will revolve around a robust economic model that responds to the actions of the player and his AI competitors. While some scenarios will start on a relatively developed map, most of the games you will play will start on a map filled with starting industries and modest towns. As you expand your empire, well connected towns will grow and expand. The same will happen to the industries that you connect to and soon you will find that everyone's success is linked to your own. The opposite is also true; Pulling out of a well developed region will ultimately lead to the demise of towns and businesses alike.